By Tim Kowols
The rising number of claims of sexual assault and harassment nationwide is giving confidence to those dealing with it locally. ABC News has compiled a list of fifty names spanning politics, entertainment, sports and more that have been accused or charged with sexual harassment and assault. Laura Giddley from the Violence Intervention Project in Algoma says by getting this topic out in the open, it is helping women gain confidence to speak out against the bad things that have happened to them.
According to Giddley, 70 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows.
FROM LAURA GIDDLEY OF THE VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PROJECT
Recently, the media has been reporting case after case of sexual
misconduct allegations against individuals in high status positions, resulting
in investigations and in some cases dismissals from employment. There
seems to be a slow shift happening in the ideology of what is acceptable
and not acceptable behavior in the workplace. Sexual assault service
providers have worked tirelessly to make progress in the movement
working towards ending violence against women. Now, the news coverage
of these high profile sexual misconduct cases has recently created a
different platform for discussion.
Sexual violence is an act of misuse of power over another individual. While
sexual violence has no boundaries, it affects individuals in every
community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, ability,
nationality or educational background. The primary act of sexual inequality
is perpetrated by men against women. It’s tempting for those who have not
experienced sexual violence to look away or stay silent, but that has been a
major part of the problem. Therefore this is not just a women’s issue.
There is a need to get men engaged in the movement towards the
accountability of other men and modeling dignity and respect towards
70 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor
knows. We have to acknowledge that while offenders are often our co-
workers, friends and family, and that they can do positive things in public,
they can also engage in abusive behavior in private.
All survivors have a voice and many have found unity in disclosing sexual
abuse because of the recent cases in the media. Women from all walks of
life are speaking out about their own traumatic experiences with sexual
assault, many for the first time. Today is the day to have conversations
that eliminate the misuse of power. Individuals have the right to feel safe
where they live, work, and socialize.
Let’s embrace these women’s bravery of coming forward to create a shift in
conversations from “Why are these women coming forward now?” to “Why
does an individual choose to misuse power in a sexual nature?” Instead of
blaming the victim, we need to be holding the person who is manipulating
their power and status accountable for their actions.
It is recognized nationally that sexual assault is the most under-reported
crime. Therefore it is hard to gauge the complete impact these disclosures
across the country have had on our immediate community. There are
many barriers that victims face when it comes to reporting. Frequently,
individuals will downplay the importance of their feelings in these situations,
because they are trapped due to economic, educational or relational
We must hold everyone who causes harm accountable, as well as keeping
the needs of survivors central. Hearing and seeing so many accounts of
sexual violence can be overwhelming and may trigger survivors. We want
you to know that you are not alone. The Violence Intervention Project, Inc.
(VIP) is a non-profit organization serving women, men and children
experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, and child and elder abuse
in Kewaunee County. Victim services are available 24/7 by calling our
Helpline at 920-837- 2424. VIP also offers support groups for women, men,
and children experiencing abuse.
With the media highlighting so many stories of sexual assaults, it is
imperative that the time needs to be now to change the culture at work, in
our homes, and in our schools to prevent the abuse before it even
happens. That is why awareness and educational efforts are key to
violence reduction and are also a principal focus of the prevention
education program at VIP. But, we are asking for help from our community
too. You can become involved in the movement that so many others are
participating in nationally. The news is full of stories about people who
make a difference every day. From volunteers in some remote corner of the
world, to people who help out in their own communities, there are many
stories about how people can make a difference in the lives of others. If
such stories have inspired you, you can find out how to make a difference
in your community call the VIP office at 920-487- 2111.
It is all of our responsibility to take action to promote safety and wellness,
not only in the workplace, but to also challenge society to promote victims’
needs and to not become desensitized to what has become the norm of
people in power abusing others. We must also remember our compassion
for others as we boldly envision and work for real change.